Volume 13, Issue 48 ~ December 1 - December 7, 2005

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Decorate for Christmas with Greens

Native plants are attractive and retain foliage and color through holidays

Many of the evergreen ornamental plants in your landscape can be used for holiday decorations. Most landscape plants are not only attractive but also retain their foliage and color. Gather yews, Douglas fir, Nordmann fir, Colorado spruce, arborvitae, Chamaecyparis, hetz and Pfitzer junipers, bluerug and Andorra junipers, hollies of all species, cherry laurel and boxwood.

A few species that do not retain their needles should be avoided, among them hemlock, Norway spruce, Cryptomeria, red cedar and Japanese privet.

You need not worry about damaging your ornamentals by pruning the greens this time of year, when the plants are dormant. If you limit your prunings to stems one inch or less in diameter you will not stimulate them into growth or make them more susceptible to winter injury. Heavy pruning of evergreen plants this early in the winter can result in injury only if we have a very hard winter. Maryland was once a heavy producer of cut American holly, and growers made it a practice to never cut branches larger than one inch in diameter.

To assure longevity of your cut greens, carry a pail of warm water. The ideal water temperature for maximizing water uptake in freshly cut greens is 100 degrees. Spraying the foliage with Plant Shine after they have been in warm water for about an hour or so will not only improve their appearance but will help in reducing their need for water. Plant Shine is just as effective but less messy then Wilt-Pruf or Vapor Gard.

Past the Cut-off Date

Q Early last spring, you wrote:

Don’t prune spring bloomers — including azaleas, rhododendrons, andromeda, mountain laurel, forsythia, weigelia, spiarea, viburnum, flowering crab apples, lilacs, cherry laurel — until after they have finished flowering. Since the flower buds of these species are currently formed and almost ready to open, pruning them now would reduce their flowering potential.

Is now too late to prune them?

—Sandra Martin, Bay Weekly editor

A Yes because they have already set flower buds for next spring. You should have pruned them as soon as they finished flowering.

Heat Your Compost with Plastic

Q I have been doing a lot of composting. One of the books I read suggested I place black plastic over my ‘lasagna’ composting area for the winter to encourage heat. What are your thoughts on this? I was concerned about air circulation and moisture.

—Lois Tuwiner, Annapolis

A Place clear plastic over the top of the compost. The clear plastic will provide a greenhouse effect. However, let the sides of the compost pile remain open so air can get in.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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